This profound divine was born at Linton, in Cambridgeshire. He was first Fellow of Emanuel College, then Master of Peterhouse from 1608 to 1615; and next master of Trinity College. He was also King's Professor of Divinity. He was chosen Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1617, and again in 1618. He died in 1625, and was buried in Trinity College Chapel. He left a bequest of one hundred pounds to Peterhouse.
He was noted as a "most excellent linguist," as every good theologian must be; for, as Coleridge says, "language is the armory of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests."
In those days, it was the custom, at seats of learning, for the ablest men to hold public disputes, in the Latin tongue, with a view to display their skill in the weapons of logic, and "the dialectic fence." As the ancient knights delighted to display and exercise their skill and strength in running at tilt, and amicably breaking spears with one another; so the great scholars used to cope with each other in the arena of public argument, and strive for literary "masteries." Those scholastic tournaments were sure to be got up whenever the halls of science were visited by the king, or some chief magnate of the land; and the logical conflicts, always conducted in the Latin tongue, were attended with as much absorbing interest as were the shows of gladiators among the Romans.
On such an occasion, when James the First was visiting Cambridge, "an extraordinary act in divinity was kept for His Majesty's entertainment. Dr. John Davenant, a famous man, and afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, was "respondent." His business was to meet all comers, who might choose to assail the point he was to defend,--namely, that kings might never be excommunicated. Well did Dr. Davenant urge the wordy war, till our Dr. Richardson pushed him tremendously with the example of Ambrose, the famous Bishop of Milan, who, to the admiration of the whole Christian world, excommunicated the emperor Theodosius the Great. Here was a poser! King James, who was always very nervous on the subject of regal prerogative, saw that his champion was staggering under that stunning fact; and, to save him, cried out in a passion,--"Verily, this was a great piece of insolence on the part of Ambrose!" * To this, Dr. Richardson calmly rejoined,-- "A truly royal response, and worthy of Alexander! This is cutting our knotty arguments, instead of untying them." ** And so taking his seat, he desisted from further discussion. The mild dignity of this remonstrance, in which independence and submission are happily combined, presents him in such a light as to constrain us to regret that this detached incident is about all we know of the personal character of the man. We can readily believe that he was a wise and faithful, as well as learned, Translator of the Book of God.
* Profecto fuit hoc ab Ambrosio insolentissime factum. ** Responsum vere regium, et Alexandro dignum; hoc est non argumenta dissolvere, sed desecare.